Parksville council held their first public budget meeting of the year, looking at the big picture and a provisional five year plan that would see infrastructure projects lead to a deficit in 2017.
“The good news is we’re in very good shape,” said mayor Chris Burger. Council froze 40 per cent of the budget areas last year and assumed the other areas would have to go up, but he said “staff managed to hold the line across the board” and the first draft of the budget includes almost no increase.
Despite that the initial draft includes the three percent residential property tax increase and four percent commercial, laid out in the 2011-15 financial plan, with money going into the accumulated surplus fund toward scheduled infrastructure work.
Burger pointed out that due to inflation, freezing a budget is the same as a slight decrease, putting extra pressure on already stretched staff and services.
In the draft proposed by the financial department — including three percent tax increases each year — scheduled projects would deplete the city’s $3 million surplus by 2017 requiring considerable further tax increases, borrowing and/or deferring projects.
He said that while they always try to underestimate revenue and overestimate expenses, and they still hope for infrastructure grants, council is going to have to start making tough decisions about future priorities.
He added that the general fund projects are closely related to discussions around a new Englishman River water intake and provincially required treatment facility, which will come out of a separate water service fund.
The city’s 2011-2015 financial plan is available on the website at www.parksville.ca, under the Financial Reports tab on the right.
This was the first of a series of public budget meetings, more will be scheduled in the near future and posted to the website as needed.